The limits of observation

This post has been rolling around in my head for a week now, sometimes more put together than others. It woke me up this morning, along with a sunrise showing itself on the field behind our bedroom. It was a pretty solid thought right then, but after I let the dog out, got my computer up and running, then went outside to take a picture of the sunrise, and was greeted by a big wide canine grin asking for play time, I lost it again. This is my attempt to get it back. I think it’s a good one.

I think I’m nearing the end of my abilities to just stand by and watch. In 20 years as a journalist I have stood by and watched the ridiculous, the mundane, the terrifying, and the sorrowful. I have wiped many tears from my eyes in a quiet darkened car before I’ve called the story in to my editors (shhh, don’t tell them). It’s my job. I watch, and I try very hard with some success to put what I have seen, heard, smelled and touched into words safe enough for a family newspaper written to about an eighth grade reading level. I argue and cajole, badger, coax, ease and tease the stories out of those who think it’s too much to share, too little to be of value, or that which they are trying to hide. I work with amazing and talented people who do the same thing in words or in pictures, providing to our communities information they need to know, should be aware of or what they are entitled to understand. I know, absolutely, that what I do is important, in spite of what people often tell me in emails, phone calls, and face to face. It is my chosen profession and I do an alright job at it most of the time.

It fits completely with my nature, my inclination to stick my nose in where it absolutely doesn’t belong. (Have I mentioned how alike my cattle dog I am? Kinda spooky). But I am growing emotionally weary of being unable to do more, to stop it, to ease it, to smooth its rough edges, to make it better. Along with that ridiculous need to nose, I also very much want to fix it or help it.

And there is not usually a damn thing I can do about any of it. I couldn’t put the little girl back together when Michael Plumadore chopped her up. I couldn’t make it easier for the cops who cried on my shoulder the day after they found her. I can’t bring the families and friends and loved ones back for those who have lost. I light a candle. I pray. I don’t ask why, though, anymore, because there isn’t a why. Reason is not for this place. This is place is for survival and courage. But I am at a place where I want to do more, to do something, to do anything.

That desire intersects right now for me at a very strange and odd place –the aforementioned Australian Cattle Dog, this energetic, fuzzy-headed bundle of fur and brains and way too much boldness for his small size. An effort earlier this fall to find a new place to provide him with intellectual and physical stimulation of obedience/agility work escalated a wee bit and now I have my new thing, a way to do something, even in a small-ish way, a way that may not show any fruit for years.

I am training Helo for Search and Rescue work. He seems to have the easy part, for he is a  young dog and as we know, new tricks are the easiest for them. This old dog, though, I have to learn all kinds of stuff–scent theory, how the wind works, how not to ruin crime scenes, how lost people behave, and become a first responder. It is going to eat up time and energy, and more time. I spend my Saturday mornings now buried in rubble piles, hiding in woods, wrestling with much larger German Shepherds to help them learn and love their work, and getting my little guy acclimated to heights and holes, and trying to turn him into a barking machine.

The husband spent a lifetime chasing radio calls as a professional and volunteer in all kinds of emergency services and is becoming content to let the younger guys run into the burning buildings. I am quite sure he is a tad concerned I’ll lose my balance in this new thing and wear myself (or him out). It’s possible. But I married him in part for his ability to ground me, to keep me from floating off into dangerous orbits. I know with absolute certainty he has my back in this, in every way that’s appropriate and real.

Helo and I may never find anything, but by golly we’re going to try. I owe it to him to give him a job, and I owe it to myself, after all these years of watching and standing by, to make an effort to do something.

 

helo on the pile

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Unpacking (finally)

Place matters to me. I tend toward being a homebody, and other than my earliest years in Baltimore, I have always been a Hoosier, and a Fort Wayne resident for the past 15 years (most of my adult life). And I was proud of the professional and personal life I carved out for myself.

Then I met A, and he drug me off to his scenic rural home about 30 minutes away from my coffee shops and brew pubs, my downtown farmers markets and my noisy neighborhood. He flat refused to live in the city (in fairness my house was too small for me and the Cattle Dog, let alone him too), so to the country we went.

I went sooner than I planned when my house was burglarized the night before my bridal shower. Within a few days I started staying up there more frequently, coming down just to change out clothes and by the time Christmas rolled around (and I packed all my winter clothes for a two-week holiday) there was no point in going back. So we began the official move, but it happened in fits and starts with no big moment when everything was done. I just kind of trickled up the road.

I have to confess, though, it has not been a smooth transition for me. I make the commute for work and then again on Sundays for church (and since A changed jobs, so does he), so there wasn’t anything that made me feel like this new place, this rural county with its rolling hills and countless lakes, was home.

But I needed something to do out there. It’s weird, but I needed a thing. I needed something that was mine, in the new place. My husband and I do not share social circles for the large part (a hazard of how we met). And while our connections into each others’ lives and cultures grows, I felt very much like a guest. However, I never really thought about the fact that I actually moved. (Anyone wanna buy my house? PLEASE?) I thought, in some strange way that I merely just changed sleeping locations, and maybe someday I’d go back to the little white house. He’d be with me, somehow, but the life I lived here still existed, in nearly the same way.

Ha!

I moved. I moved my geographic location. I changed my name. I changed my legal status. I changed the beneficiaries on my life insurance policy, and my emergency contact information.

I cheated in the transition, though, because I kept my byline the same, so in the newsroom, with the people I have known for so long in the city where I lived for so long, I feel like I did before. Then I would leave to go home, but it didn’t really feel like home. I loved that A was there, and I love the life we’re building together there, but I did not feel like I lived in that place.

A few weeks ago, though, a new opportunity opened up out there in beautiful rural nowhere. I am not going to call it a hobby because it feels more than that. I will bug you later (trust me) with stories about it. But for now, this is just about this deepening sense of place, of belonging to a new spot as this new person. It will be my new name on release forms and contact sheets. These people I am doing this with, many of them know my husband, and know me now only as his wife — “Woody’s wife.” We talk about him because they have known him for longer, and in ways I do not. This is a very good thing. Until this, there had not been in anyway a place (other than with family and in-laws) where that identity — me as his other half — existed.

Is that weird? It may be.

I realized yesterday, when I came back to the city after more than a week away from it, it didn’t really have the pull for me that it did before. It’s now a place I work, and with the exception of my faith community, not where I live.

I live in a new place.

Lap 41: A few scattered thoughts

I am eight days into my 41st lap around the sun. Weird, huh. I told a friend the other day we are who we are in the eighth grade. She argued with me vehemently, but I stand by that. In fact, the older I get, the more I seem to be that person, albeit a more secure, self-assured version of that person. I liked that person. She was competent (working at an animal hospital at 13) and teaching herself the 8th grade (homeschooler!). She was curious. She was a good sister. She was brave, in ways I see now, but am not going to go into here. She loved well. I see nothing wrong with being that person again, though this time with a driver’s license, a good chunk of student loan debt still to pay off and business cards with a title on them. If I brought all that I liked about that girl into life with this woman, I could do a lot worse.

Fort Wayne has had a blue million homicides this year and apparently it finally got to me. Early this morning, I woke up deeply disturbed by a dream involving a young black man walking around with a bullet hole in his head (he was dead and walking around) and I could do nothing about it. I tried to draw attention to it, but nobody paid any mind. I couldn’t help him in anyway. Maddening and nauseating. The timing is puzzling to me, though. In April, I stood at two homicide scenes, feet from the bodies. No problems. I covered a couple homicide trials this year, and had no issues there either. Why I woke up panting and disgusted with myself and all in the world at 4:30 this morning, in a hotel room after four days away from it, I have no idea. I can only guess the trouble is cumulative: too much death in too few days, too much controversy, too much feedback from the public (they can take a step back at any time and it’ll be fine with me).

I notice, though, I’m getting a lot more cynical and a lot less tolerant at the same time. It seems counter-intuitive, but even though my gallows humor functions quite (inappropriately) well, I am prone to feeling more sad in the courtroom, much less able to separate the victims’ emotions from mine by distance. I blame age. I blame an ever-deepening realization of consequences, of loss, of anguish, of love, of all that makes life here so completely miserable and amazing all at once. People I love with my whole heart have lost so much in the past year, and it is maddening to be so completely impotent, so totally incapable of doing anything more than walking along beside. And I just am not any good at that. (see above reference to incapability and know that makes me angry). If we have another case like Plumadore in the next few months, I very well might find myself curled up on the floor.

This all sounds very depressing, I realize. I’m really not though, just feeling a tad introspective. Maybe it’s Bach on the headphones, maybe the darkened library in this fancy-pants resort we’re staying in for A’s work conference, maybe it’s the rainy November weather. No worries, though, it’s all good. My blessings are frequently counted these days.

My writing location
My writing location

And they are many.

On a totally unrelated note, I really like wedding rings. As you know, I’m big on symbol (connecting the spiritual reality to the physical realm) and they definitely are that. I like the wedding ring on my finger, I love the one on A’s and I just think it’s a fabulous tradition for a kinesthetic type like myself who is always in need of the concrete and the tangible. (I married Mr. Concrete and Tangible because I need it so much)